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New Grazing System Lets Cattle Move Fence
It's a rancher's dream: A fence that cattle can take care of themselves.
Invented by an Argentine cattleman and in testing by USDA researchers in Oklahoma, the new "frontal grazing system" is a fence that cattle can move on their own. It consists of two strands of wire strung across moveable sleds. The upper wire is electrified while the lower one is insulated. Cattle graze up against the wire and as they clean up the available forage, nudge the wire with their necks moving the sleds backward into new territory.
The new fence system is designed to set up on long, rectangular fields that are fairly flat with no low areas. The long sides and back of each field is fenced with electrified wire while the front end is closed in with the moveable fence. Spring-loaded pulleys connect the wires on the sleds with the electrified side fence wires.
Cattle start at one end of the pasture and as they advance the sleds forward to fresh pasture, the back fence can be moved up behind to prevent backtracking.
Jerry Volesky, a range animal scientist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service near El Reno, Okla., has tested the new grazing system for the past two sea-sons. It was originally developed in Argentina by Fernando Pereda, who's selling the patented components of the system in Argentina and hopes to begin selling the system in the U.S. Volesky has been testing the system with the assistance of Pareda's nephew Fabian Achaval, who's at Texas A&M University in graduate studies.
Last year they put 100 crossbred steers in each of two Caucasian bluestem pastures measuring about 109 yards wide and 820 yards long. At any given time, each herd had approximately 2 acres of grazing space. It took them about 30 days to reach the end of the pastures.
"If the cattle push the sleds ahead too quickly, you can adjust the height of the front electrified wire to increase the chances of them getting a shock when they're pushing," Volesky explains. "Also, there's enough work involved to move the sleds just a foot or two that they'll graze forage in front of them before going after more."
The system's main components are:
•  The push cable and electric wire.
•  A pace governor, or tension regulator located in the center of the frontal fence. It has a scissor mechanism attached to the electric wires coming from both sides. When cattle push on the wire, the tension opens the scissor mechanism, allowing a cogged wheel beneath the sled to roll forward. As soon as tension eases, the scissor mechanism closes.
• Sleds between the pace governor and the side fence. They simply slide along the ground.
• Two sets of pulleys that travel along the lateral wires and form the union between those wires and the frontal fence.
Volesky says the frontal grazing system cuts grass losses from trampling and defecation, and also allows higher stocking rates.
"We had about 5 1/2 head per acre compared with about 4 1/2 head per acre on conventional grazing," he notes.
Cattle catch on quick to the system al-though Volesky says they usually have to bounce the wire and advance it several times during the first day or two to give them the idea. One added advantage of the system is that cattle are easy to check be-cause they usually graze right along the fence area. Frontal grazing works best when used with high stocking rates. For a 100 yard grazing line, you need 90 to 100 head of cattle. And Volesky says the method appears to be best-suited for cattle that need high-quality forage, such as stockers or dairy cows.
Several systems have already been sold on a trial basis in Argentina. Cost of equipment needed for a 100 by 820-yard pasture is about $3,000 but Archaval expects the price of the equipment should come down once it goes into commercial production.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dr. Jerry D. Volesky, USDA Forage & Live-stock Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 1199, El Reno, Okla. 73036 (ph 405 262-5291).

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1991 - Volume #15, Issue #1